Sunday, February 22, 2009

Darwin and (Lake) Wallace

For Darwin Day, I wrote about Darwin's visit to Australia, and in particular his stay at Wallerawang homestead on his way from the Blue Mountains to Bathurst in January 1836.

It was at his stay at Wallerawang that he saw his first live - or at least recently dead (the homestead owner shot one for him) platypus. Which, he remarked, was very different from the dried specimens available in Britain.

It was here, on a river bank, that he noted the local Lion-Ant, and made some comments in his diary that some have equated with the first evidence of his thinking on the theory of evolution.

At the end of that post, I mentioned that the spot where he probably encountered the Lion-Ant, and the homestead, has subsequently been drowned to make Lake Wallace.

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I know, I know. There has to be some connection, right?

Sadly, no.

It took me some time to find out the details, but the lake was formed to provide cooling water for the local power station, and was named after the manager of a local colliery, not Alfred Wallace.

However, the application to dam the Cox River there, and flood the homestead, was the second such application. The first application, made in 1948 was for the lake to be called Lake Darwin. This was superseded by a second application, with the name change, which was granted, and the dam was built in the late 1970s.

Given the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and 150th of the publication of 'Origin' maybe there's a case to be made to consider renaming the lake.

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